Eurostar confirms change of policy on ice axes

Posted by Tony Ryan on 24/04/2013
Photo: www.eurostar.com

Good news if you travel by train to the Alps; ice axes are now permitted to be carried on board Eurostar trains without the need to be registered.

The fact that axes weren’t permitted as accompanied luggage might be news to you, even if you have travelled on Eurostar with them, as the policy was not rigidly enforced. Such was the experience of Alpine Club member Jonathan Gregory, who contacted us earlier this year. Jonathan has travelled to the Alps by train for several years without registering his axes, and learned only last year of Eurostar’s official policy. He was concerned that he might be forced to abandon his axes if he did not register them, and felt that the registration process created considerable inconvenience and added significant cost to using Eurostar; not a great encouragement to travellers wishing to reduce their environmental impact by choosing an alternative to air travel. Jonathan asked if we could persuade Eurostar to change its policy.

As it happens, the BMC, the Climbers’ Club and the Eagle Ski Club wrote jointly to Eurostar in 2009 to request a change of policy on the requirement for axes to be carried as registered luggage. In response to our request, Eurostar confirmed that the requirement related to the possibility of axes being used as weapons, rather than the risk of accidental injury, and the policy would be maintained.

Last month we tried again, and this time the response proved much more positive. Eurostar chief executive Nicolas Petrovic replied to our letter, to confirm that its policy has changed and now reflects Department for Transport legislation as it currently stands. Ice axes – provided they are packaged sensibly and carefully – may be transported along with normal luggage.  Furthermore, Eurostar’s head of security has met with his counterpart on the continent to discuss the matter, and to ensure that no restrictions to axes in accompanied luggage will be applied in continental stations as well as UK stations, and no circumstances should arise where these items are confiscated.

With the prospect of Eurostar services being extended to other European destinations, such as Geneva, the new policy is a welcome development for Britain’s train-hopping mountaineers.

Visit the Eurostar website for information on train travel to continental Europe

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19/05/2013
This is good news, however I see on the Eurostar website (http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/travel-information/travel-preparation/baggage/prohibited-items) accessed today (19/05) that ice axes are still noted under prohibited items in the introductory text. Perhaps the BMC would be able to follow up on this to request the website be updated or for something to be posted by Eurostar clarifying the policy (which could be printed by travellers). Many thanks,
2) Tony Ryan (author comment)
23/05/2013
Hello Nicholas
Thank you for directing us to the Eurostar page. We will contact them to request that the website be updated.
Tony Ryan, BMC
3) Anonymous User
19/11/2013
It still says on their website that ice axes are prohibited. Is there an official word on if this has changed or not?
4) Tony Ryan (author comment)
20/11/2013
In reply to 3):

We have been officially notified of the change of policy, and Eurostar has promised to update its website. We will contact Eurostar again to request that the website be updated.
05/01/2014
Tony, thanks for your efforts on this issue.
A quick update on the situation on the ground. In St Pancras recently, a security chap was adamant that ice axes were prohibited and as a result went through the rest of my baggage as well, I politely explained the agreement between BMC/et al and E* and stood my ground. He went off to discuss with his manager and then let me through. With security at Gare du Nord on the return journey there was no problem. The Eurostar website still says ice axes are prohibited. http://www.eurostar.com/uk-en/travel-information/travel-preparation/baggage/prohibited-items#.UslgCLS0Myg In conclusion you can take an ice axe through, but you need to allow a few minutes to argue with security. cheers, Brian
08/01/2014
UPDATE FROM EUROSTAR:
Dear Mr xxx,

Thank you for your email.
I am sorry that our website has not been updated correctly with this information. I have reported this and will get this changed to reflect the policy.
I can confirm that yes you are able to take ice axes onboard so this should not be a problem for you or any ski club member.

I have also fed back your comments to the security staff at St Pancras to ensure that they are all aware of the policy change. I am sorry if you felt the security staff member was rude and I agree he should have apologised to you for giving you incorrect information.

I hope that this explains everything for you and I look forward to welcoming you back onboard the Eurostar where I am confident you will receive our normal high standards of service.

Kind regards,
Lisa Butcher
Eurostar Traveller Care
08/01/2014
UPDATE FROM EUROSTAR:
Dear Mr xxx,

Thank you for your email.
I am sorry that our website has not been updated correctly with this information. I have reported this and will get this changed to reflect the policy.
I can confirm that yes you are able to take ice axes onboard so this should not be a problem for you or any ski club member.

I have also fed back your comments to the security staff at St Pancras to ensure that they are all aware of the policy change. I am sorry if you felt the security staff member was rude and I agree he should have apologised to you for giving you incorrect information.

I hope that this explains everything for you and I look forward to welcoming you back onboard the Eurostar where I am confident you will receive our normal high standards of service.

Kind regards,
Lisa Butcher
Eurostar Traveller Care
8) JDaniel
19/02/2014
Hi

Just visited the Eurostar website - Conditions of Carriage, Appendix 1, para 1 and it *still* cites ice axes in the list of items which may only be taken as registered luggage. This is exactly the same language that has been used in the Eurostar conditions of Carriage since before the 2013 policy change. I have posted "feedback" on the Eurostar site asking them to update the language. Will they, though?

Until they do, or provide something tangible we can wave at their security staff, we are presumably still living with the risk of needless hassle or perhaps even confiscation. Apologies (albeit fulsome and seemingly sincere) after the fact are all very well, but . . .

20/02/2014
Would help if there was a link to the relevant page on the Eurostar website. It's one thing there being a "police", quite another thing persuading a staff member that it has recently changed. When my local bus company changed their policy on the carriage of folding bikes, it was handy to have a printout of their email to show to the prohibiting driver!
Rob Tresidder
20/02/2014
Would help if there was a link to the relevant page on the Eurostar website. It's one thing there being a "police", quite another thing persuading a staff member that it has recently changed. When my local bus company changed their policy on the carriage of folding bikes, it was handy to have a printout of their email to show to the prohibiting driver!
Rob Tresidder
20/02/2014
Would help if there was a link to the relevant page on the Eurostar website. It's one thing there being a "police", quite another thing persuading a staff member that it has recently changed. When my local bus company changed their policy on the carriage of folding bikes, it was handy to have a printout of their email to show to the prohibiting driver!
Rob Tresidder
20/02/2014
Would help if there was a link to the relevant page on the Eurostar website. It's one thing there being a "police", quite another thing persuading a staff member that it has recently changed. When my local bus company changed their policy on the carriage of folding bikes, it was handy to have a printout of their email to show to the prohibiting driver!
Rob Tresidder
20/02/2014
Would help if there was a link to the relevant page on the Eurostar website. It's one thing there being a "police", quite another thing persuading a staff member that it has recently changed. When my local bus company changed their policy on the carriage of folding bikes, it was handy to have a printout of their email to show to the prohibiting driver!
Rob Tresidder
14) JDaniel
27/02/2014
Hi all,

I revisited the Eurostar website Conditions of Carriage today, and am glad to report that the reference to ice axes has been removed from the introductory paragraph. There is now no reference to ice axes by name as being problematic in the Conditions of Carriage. That's progress.

I agree with others who posted that it would be good to have something official that we can wave at staff who are not up to speed on this issue, esp since there seems to be evidence that their staff are not all up to speed. That's particularly true since there is still a reference to "dangerous sporting equipment" (both in the Conditions of Carriage and on the FAQ page), and it could be a matter of judgement whether security staff will interpret an ice axe as being in that category. If they do, the item has to be carried as registered luggage, and they don't guarantee transferring an item in the registered luggage at the last minute.

I have sent a "Contact Us" via the Eurostar website, asking for a statement on this, principally for my own use, as I'm travelling soon. If they send it in a useful (re-usable) form, I'll share.
15) JDaniel
04/03/2014
Oh dear!

The response to my "Contact Us" request (see my posting of 27/02/2014) puts the cat firmly back among the pigeons:

"Dear James,

Thank you for your response.

... for clarity I have it confirmed with our legal team that Ice Axes are not permitted to be in your possession whilst travelling on Eurostar.

Although I am sure you can appreciate, it is not possible for us to list every item that can and cannot be carried on board. Ice Axes would fall into at least 2 categories on our prohibited item table.

The most recent update to our Conditions of Carriage was 27th February 2014.

Kind Regards,
Lucy, Eurostar Customer Care"

I think this one is now beyond me to resolve. Perhaps the BMC would like to get in touch with Eurostar to see whether the email above really reflects current policy?

For an extra 10 points you could try working out whether they ever really allowed ice axes at all, or whether they changed their policy back in early 2013 (so that the allowed them), only to change their minds again on or about 27th Feb this year.
16) Anonymous User
16/03/2014
Hi everyone!

Same problem here, I'll travel with Eurostar by the end of the week with two ice axes. I contacted Eurostar via their website and their answer was it's not allowed. I'm quite sure the person who replied me didn't really look for the answer. I then contacted Eurostar via their Facebook page and they replied me that it was allowed!! Who should I believe?
Thanks
Julien.
17) JDaniel
08/04/2014
Further to the email I mentioned in my posting of 4 April, I emailed Lucy and summarised the various statements that I knew of in the public domain and the ones I'd had direct from Eurostar, asking her to confirm which were true and which were not - they couldn't all be true at the same time.

The day before I travelled, I had an email from Ian Overhead, a team leader in Eurostar Traveller Care. The gist is this:

"I am afraid to say that [Lucy] received incorrect advice ... [Lucy] has been in touch with our legal team, security and station staff and has today received a 100% guarantee that it is allowed for Ice Axes to travel with you on board the Eurostar."

I packed my ice axe, printed the email and took it with me to St Pancras, wondering what would happen. The baggage scanners ran the suitcase containing the ice axe back and forth through the X-ray machine a few times, but didn't challenge it. I had no need to brandish my "100% guarantee" email.

On the way back, the baggage scanners at Moutiers noticed that I had a "piolet" in my suitcase, but did no more than ask me chattily what I'd been climbing and whether I'd had a nice time. Different culture, different assumptions, same company.

Could it be that they're all on the same page now?
18) Anonymous User
05/11/2015
It seems eurostar have changed their policy again - Ice Axes are again excluded in the T&C's and an email to customer service advises the same.

I've queried this but would be great to have an update from BMC to know for sure - I have to travel onwards from London which makes Registered Baggage quite inconvenient..
19) IKBrunel
05/01/2016
I have had a similar response to Anon who posted in Nov 2015.
I suspected there had been a security review post Thalys train attack and Paris attack.
To clarify:
Ice axes, crampons and possibly other mountaineering equipment must go as 'registered' freight on trains to Paris/Brussels. Registration is done with Eurodespatch. There's no guarantee they'll arrive at the same time as you unless you check them in really early (up to 24hrs). So this is a real pain if you connections to make.
This doesn't apply to direct routes to the Alps for which Eurodespatch don't operate.
When I asked about crampons, Eurostar customer services just referred me to Eurodespatch.
Brian Goss
20) Anonymous User
02/03/2016
Eurostar put me in touch with Eurodespatch (eurostar baggage service) who stated on the phone and in an email (2/3/2016) that they make an exception on the Ski Trains that go direct to the Alps during the winter and early spring. You can carry ice axes and crampons in your luggage on those trains, but not on regular services to Paris etc.

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